Bursary Helps Students with Disabilities and Those with Disabled Parents Cope with Education Fees

SINGAPORE, 26 January 2013 – Ninety-four students with disabilities and students with disabled parents received the NatSteel-SPD Education Programme Bursary Awards from the Education Minister, Mr Heng Swee Keat, at an award presentation ceremony held at the Resorts Convention Centre in Sentosa this Saturday afternoon.

The Society for the Physically Disabled (SPD) disbursed a total of $77,500 to the students this year through the bursary programme which was started in 1985 to help students from low-income families cope with expenses related to the students’ studies in mainstream schools. To date, over $2.9 million has been awarded to more than 3,400 students with physical disabilities and students with physically disabled parents from primary to tertiary levels.

Geraldine Ng Xin Yu is a beneficiary of the bursary programme since 2007. The 17-year-old, who was diagnosed with cerebral palsy at Primary Four, was happy to receive the bursary today. Despite her weakened lower limbs and reliance on the wheelchair to aid in her mobility, the Choa Chu Kang Secondary School student never thought of giving up her studies. Her glowing report card was the testimony of her determination and perseverance in overcoming her physical disabilities. The assistance provided through the bursary will help lessen the financial burden on her father who is a mechanic and the family’s sole-breadwinner. This will give her the peace of mind to concentrate on her GCE ‘O’ Levels this year without worrying about her school fees.

The NatSteel-SPD Education Programme Bursary Award is supported by NatSteel Holdings Pte Ltd, the sponsor of the bursary programme since 2007.

“NatSteel is proud to be part of this initiative that empowers young people through education, in particular those with disabilities. We are glad that our contributions have given students and their families some financial respite in difficult times. It is my pleasure to announce that we will continue to partner SPD in this worthy cause with a contribution of $150,000 that is projected to be required for the next two years,” said Mr Joseph Yong, Chief Operating Officer, NatSteel Holdings Pte Ltd.

In addition to the bursary presentation, the SPD Youth Aspiration Award was also presented to two young Singaporeans at the same ceremony today. Into its fourth year, the award that was introduced to inspire talented youths with physical disabilities to pursue their interests outside of the academic arena will bring 15-year-old Kelvin Chua Wei Hao and 24-year-old Harun Rahamad a step closer to their dreams.

A yo-yo enthusiast from young, Kelvin, who has osteosarcoma – a form of bone cancer – participated in the “Singapore Yo-Yo Championship” in 2010 and came in fifth. He now dreams of competing in the 2013 World Yo-Yo Contest in Orlando, Florida, and wants to become a world yo-yo player.

Harun was diagnosed with cerebral palsy since birth. His passion for the game propelled him beyond his physical limitations to become an active player who has participated in many local games and a number of international games. Harun hopes to improve his soccer skills to enable him to build his own soccer team and promote the sport to other people with disabilities. He understands the physical challenges that athletes with physical disabilities face, thus, hopes to start a soccer clinic for his team and for other people with disabilities.

Both award recipients will receive a grant of up to $5,000 each to be used in the year to help them develop their talents and fulfill their dreams. Kelvin will use the grant to pay for the air ticket to Florida and a Solenoid Yo-Yo and more yo-yo strings, while Harun will use it to pay for his coaching and first aid course fees, and attend an overseas soccer exchange programme. He also intends to purchase some physiotherapy equipment.

The SPD Youth Aspiration Award is offered to those studying in secondary 1 to university levels who wish to further their interests or talents in visual and performing arts, sports or community service. It is also open to those looking for funds to perform community service or projects.

Both the NatSteel-SPD Education Bursary Award and the SPD Youth Aspiration Award are two initiatives under the SPD Education Programme which sets out to level the playing field for students with disabilities while they pursue their academic studies. It has since evolved from a bursary-focused programme to encompass a more holistic support to help students in their academic development. The support provided includes counselling, tuition, enrichment courses and even collaboration with schools to ensure all-round care for individual students with physical disabilities.

“Recognising that education is important in enabling a person with disabilities to become self-reliant and independent, SPD is committed to helping every disabled child access education by advocating an inclusive environment in all schools. We are encouraged by our students’ optimism and zest for learning, and hope that they will continue to be rise above their physical challenges to reach their fullest potential,” said Ms Chia Yong Yong, President of SPD and Chairperson of the SPD Education Programme Award Committee.